HRC Issues Blistering Report Condemning Israel’s Settlements

by Kevin Jon Heller

Nothing in the Human Right’s Council’s report is particularly novel; it’s long been obvious that both the settlements and the transfer of Israeli civilians into the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting the report’s most important conclusions:

100. The facts brought to the attention of the Mission indicate that the State of Israel has had full control of the settlements in the OPT since 1967 and continues to promote and sustain them through infrastructure and security measures. The Mission notes that despite all the pertinent United Nations resolutions declaring that the existence of the settlements is illegal and calling for their cessation, the planning and growth of the settlements continues both of existing as well as new structures.

101. The establishment of the settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem is a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

102. The settlements have been established and developed at the expense of violating international human rights laws and international humanitarian law, as applicable in the OPT as notably recognised by the 2004 ICJ Advisory Opinion.

103. The settlements are established for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews; settlements are being maintained and developed through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population living in the OPT. This system of segregation is supported and facilitated by a strict military and law enforcement control to the detriment of the rights of the Palestinian population.

104. The Mission considers that in relation to the settlements Israel is committing serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and “certain obligations under international humanitarian law”, including the obligation not to transfer its population into the OPT. The Rome Statute establishes the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over the deportation or transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying Power of parts of its own population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory. Ratification of the Statute by Palestine may lead to accountability for gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law and justice for victims.

105. The existence of the settlements has had a heavy toll on the rights of the Palestinians. Their rights to freedom of self-determination, non-discrimination, freedom of movement, equality, due process, fair trial, not to be arbitrarily detained, liberty and security of person, freedom of expression, freedom to access places of worship, education, water, housing, adequate standard of living, property, access to natural resources and effective remedy are being violated consistently and on a daily basis.

Based on those conclusions, the HRC report demands that Israel “cease all settlement activities without preconditions” and “immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT.” Interestingly, the report also encourages both states and corporations to ensure that their business dealings with Israel do not support the settlements — even if that means terminating those dealings:

117. Private companies must assess the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps – including by terminating their business interests in the settlements – to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People in conformity with international law as well as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Mission calls upon all Member States to take appropriate measures to ensure that business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the settlements respect human rights throughout their operations. The Mission recommends that the Human Rights Council Working Group on Business and Human Rights be seized of this matter.

Israel has hit the F7 key on its keyboard and issued its stock “the UN is biased” rejection of the HRC report. But a very interesting article in the Jerusalem Post reveals that, at least privately, “[s]enior diplomatic officials in Jerusalem are increasingly expressing concern that the country’s standing in friendly capitals in Europe and even in Washington is sliding, and that the continuous condemnations and defeats in the international arena are taking a toll.” Alas, those officials are not concerned enough to advocate complying with the HRC’s recommendations. Instead, Israel has decided to boycott the HRC’s Universal Periodic Review — the first time a state has ever refused to defend its human-rights practices before the Council.

What’s that old adage — “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face”?

4 Responses

  1. Thanks for posting this Kevin: Although I would have included the remainder of the conclusion, nos. 106-111, as likewise part of “the report’s most important conclusions.” Indeed, it was encouraging to see reference to the vulnerability of Bedouins, who I think warrant an independent report as to their precarious condition and treatment as well.

  2. Well-put Kevin, and thanks for the excerpts (although arguably there were other excellent paragraphs worthy of mention)!

    Just wanted to mention the important caveat that the HRC has only been around for 7 years and that its predecessor was dismantled for, inter alia, bias against Israel.
    With that in mind, do you think there is any merit to Israel’s stock “the UN is biased” claims? And if there is, how would you propose Israel respond, in light of that?
    Much obliged!

  3. CG,

    I think we have to distinguish between UN bodies like the HRC and specific UN missions.  The former are indeed often biased against Israel, as indicated by fact-finding mandates that are completely one-sided, focusing on Israel’s war crimes while ignoring Hamas’s. Israel’s endless complaints ring hollow, however, regarding specific missions.  There is no evidence that the missions themselves are biased; indeed, they rely on independent experts.  The idea that Goldstone was biased against Israel, for example, is utterly ludicrous.  Similarly, there is no evidence that this most recent fact-finding mission was any way predisposed against Israel; after all, as I noted, it’s not as if the illegality of the settlements and transfer of civilians hasn’t been obvious for decades.  Sadly, the only “unbiased” UN mission, in Israel’s view, is one that is biased toward Israel.

  4. I am very surprised such intelligent persons as those participating in this forum are actually taking this UN report seriously. My first question must be: have any of you actually visited a Jewish community in the West Bank?
    I had the opportunity to spend a year living on a ‘settlement’ (by the way, no one ‘transferred’ me there, nor was anyone else I know ‘transferred’), and it is very clear from the facts on the ground that no Palestinian right to self-determination is in the process of being violated. On the contrary, Palestinians and their Jewish neighbours have friendly relations and benefit from each other’s presence (it’s really a shame the media portrays the almost negligible extremist few that distort the reality as the majority).
    Now is the time many persons would be thinking: but didn’t the ICJ say in the Wall opinion that… I strongly suggest reading paragraphs 3-4 of the opinion written by the highly respected Israeli jurist Mishael Cheshin in the Mara’abe case ( It very much sums up why the Wall opinion is quite irrelevant.
    It is also very surprising how persons are utilising irrelevant instruments in demonising Israel’s ‘settlement’ policies (apart from the Rome Statute which of course included a stipulation specifically intended to target such Israeli policies – John Rawls and his ‘veil of ignorance’ are probably turning in his grave). In this instance, Article 49 of the IV Geneva Convention is of particular attention. For two thousand years, the Jewish people – following their forced exile from the Land of Israel – have been praying, yearning and begging to return to their ancestral homeland. Judea and Samaria have always been of particular importance in Jewish religious, spiritual and cultural heritage. It seems inconceivable that the drafters of the IV Geneva Convention were contemplating instances such as the return of Jewish people to their ancestral lands when they drafted Article 49 and its ‘transfer’ provision.
    By the way, while one may argue that claiming the Goldstone Report bias is ‘ludicrous’, such contentions are supported by… Goldstone himself:

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